In Mexico, guilty till proven innocent
As the Mexican government has stepped up its efforts to combat drug trafficking, the number of people who have been detained and accused of crimes related to drugs has dramatically increased.
But they must struggle to defend themselves with often poor, or no, legal representation.
A 2012 survey of the prison population by the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in eight of Mexico's federal prisons found that the majority of the prisoners, 60%, were in jail for drug crimes. Of these prisoners, more than 43% said that they did not have a lawyer present when they presented their testimony before the public prosecutor's office, 44% said their lawyer did not explain to them what was happening during the trial, and 51% said their attorneys did not give them any advice.
Just as telling is the small number of cases that are ever brought to trial.
The Washington Office on Latin America and Transnational Institute did a study on drug laws in Latin America, including Mexico. It found that during the first four years of the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderón -- whose term ran from 2006 to 2012 -- of the 226,667 detainees accused of a drug crime, 33,5000, or less than 15%, were ever sentenced.
This finding suggests that in the majority of cases, the evidence presented against the accused wasn't strong enough for charges to be filed, and of those, relatively few held up in court.